Hawick rugby chiefs tell of pride at seeing Rory Sutherland become their latest Lion
Rugby bosses in Hawick have told of their pride at witnessing yet another ex-Green see red for the British and Irish Lions.
Rory Sutherland became the 13th former player for the Mansfield Park club to represent the multinational side as they beat Japan 28-10 in a warm-up game at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday.
The 28-year-old, now living in Lauder, is one of two Teries in Warren Gatland’s squad to tour South Africa next month and into August, the other being Scotland captain Stuart Hogg
That’s not only a source of pride for the club but also an inspiration for young players aspiring to make their way through the ranks to the first team and beyond, according to club vice-president Ian Landles.
“We’re hugely proud of both of them, as is the whole town,” he said.
“They’re part of a continuing conveyor belt of internationalists turned out by this wee town of ours, and that’s a source of great pride.”
Hogg and Sutherland’s achievements at international level had already proved an inspiration for fellow ex-Hawick star Darcy Graham and further such success stories are sure to follow, said Landles.
“It’s great. You can see that Darcy Graham has obviously been inspired by the pair of them and he’s not the only one,” he said, adding that the number of caps the three Borderers have amassed between them, 120 and counting – 85 for Hogg, 19 for Graham and 16 for Sutherland – isn’t the only figure involved of note for townsfolk, a coincidental nod to the skirmish at Hornshole that inspired Hawick’s annual common riding also being welcomed.
“To see the three Hawick boys standing together singing the national anthem when they’re playing for Scotland is really special.
“It’s also very special to see Stuart Hogg and Darcy Graham next to each other wearing the 15 and 14 shirts as 1514 is a very important year for Hawick.”
One minor disappointment for Borderers watching Saturday’s game, the Lions’ first-ever match in Scotland, was the absence of Hogg due to club commitments, especially as the 29-year-old wasn’t even given a starting place for Exeter Chiefs 40-38 defeat by Harlequins that day and had to wait 45 minutes to get on.
“We might have been miffed but certainly not as miffed as he will have been,” said Landles.
“It wasn’t a happy ending for Exeter, and he certainly showed them they’d done the wrong thing by dropping him as he got stuck in as soon as he came on.”
Garry Douglas, Hawick’s director of rugby, is equally pleased for Sutherland, saying: “It’s absolutely massive.
“First and foremost, we’re just delighted for Rory that he’s reached that level of rugby.
“He’s a really easy-going guy and, having done training sessions at Hawick Albion with him years ago, he just excelled from a young age, as did Stuart Hogg.
“The big thing with Rory, though, is that he’s not had his troubles to seek in terms of injuries, so it’s fantastic.
“It’s a massive thing for the young players of this town that they can see him and Stuart and that’s got to motivate them.
“When you go to big cities it maybe doesn’t happen as often, but in Hawick everybody knows a Scotland internationalist so they know it’s not impossible, and hopefully we’ll see many more in future.”
Club president Neil Hamilton added: “It’s an absolutely fantastic achievement for a small Borders town to have two British and Irish Lions at the same time.
“We don’t know how lucky we are to have that sort of representation in what is such an elite club.
“To have two players from the same year at the same schools in the same Lions squad is unique, to be honest.
“We’re very proud of Rory and Stuart, and I thought Rory was very solid on Saturday, especially seeing as it was his first game since March.”
Hogg, now Exeter's failed defence of their English Premiership title is over, will be taking part in his third Lions tour on the trot, and this time round he’ll be accompanied by his national team boss, Gregor Townsend, the former Gala star having been drafted in by Gatland as attack coach.
When initially called up in 2013, Hogg was the first ex-Hawick player to turn out for the Lions since Tony Stanger back in 1997.
Prior to that, Hawick had been represented on Lions tours by brothers Bob and Willie Burnet, Doug Davies, Colin Deans, Derrick Grant, Alex Laing, Hugh McLeod, Jim Renwick, Alan Tomes and Willie Welsh.
Sutherland – at Hawick at youth level and until the age of 20 before moving on to Biggar and then Gala for a year apiece and Edinburgh since 2014 – played for 51 minutes of Saturday’s match, his first game since sustaining a shoulder injury while playing for Scotland against France in March.
Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones suffered a similar injury on Saturday, ruling him out of the tour, and that’s a big blow for the squad but one they’ve got the strength in depth to overcome, says Sutherland.
“Al has been great for me personally and made me feel very welcome in the group,” said the loosehead prop.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone, but there are a lot of guys who will step up to the plate and start taking those leadership roles.
“Al is an extremely good leader, a fantastic captain, but I think the boys are still gelling, getting used to each other.
“That will continue for a number of weeks after a good first game.”